Friday, March 16, 2007


At around 5:30 they all started to gather in the Hope House common area. Most came straight in and choose a seat, ready to participate. I noticed one guy with Down Syndrome hanging by the door, clearly not sure he wanted to attend. I'm used to that hesitation, I even understand it. Usually one of three things is going on, the topic is sexuality, the topic is abuse, it's called a class and many have learned that they failed in things called classes. One of the women who was to help me with the class approached me and asked if he could sit over by the door, round a small corner and just listen. That's all he'd give. Was it enough? Yes. Of course.

So I began the class watching over to where he was sitting out of the corner of my eye. At first all I could see was his shoulder, the rest of him blocked by the corner he sat behind. About 40 minutes in he was laying on the couch looking into the room. I smiled inside, I knew he was pretending to just lay there in boredom, but even from where I was sitting I could see interest flicker on his face and once he even laughed.

I never take breaks in these classes. I find it difficult to get them all back into it but I took a risk. When a lovely woman up front asked permission to go to the washroom I said, "Let's take a short break."

And then I prayed.

I so wanted him to get up and come join us. Be part of the group.

And he did.

As people reassembled he was sitting right up front. I said nothing to welcome him, nothing to single him out but I gave him a smile, he smiled back and I knew connection had been made.

The class ended by a 'quiz show' and he even got up to answer a question for the men's team. He had come on his terms and he left on his terms. Thank heaven's that over the course of learning to teach people with disabilities it's become apparent to me that you take what people give, you let people grow as they so wish, you allow them to be the source of their own power and motivation.

He left the class successful. Proud of himself.

If he learned nothing from me, he learned a lot from himself.

And that's enough.


Anonymous said...

As usual, you bring up a point that is important, but often overlooked. We can only give what people are willing to accept, and we have to do so at their pace. When I first entered the field, I was everyone's cheerleader. I gave positive praise and enthusiastic recognition at every opportunity. I soon learned that some, if not many, people cannot handle that level of attention, and it can even be enough to cause people to retreat. Once, I gave an award to someone I worked with, in recognition of her hard work and dedication. She'd put a lot of time and effort into learning some things she'd always wanted to learn. I thought that this accomplishment would be a springboard to further accomplishments, but my "award" backfired. She was afraid she'd fail and not live up to people's expectatios. Through her, I learned that, for some people, a pat on the shoulder and a quiet "good job" are enough.

All 4 My Gals said...

Once again you're teaching me through your writing. I wish all of our caregivers were as intuitive and respectful as you.